Hundreds of young men and women in Mumbai joined a march organized by the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) on April 23 evening to protest against increasing atrocities on minorities and Dalits. The ‘Mumbai Youth March’ started from Tilak Nagar and culminated in a massive public meeting at Ramabai Nagar in Ghatkopar. Ramabai Nagar is the revered place of martyrs who were gunned down in the murderous violence unleashed against Dalits by the Mumbai Police in 1997.
The Youth March received enthusiastic welcome from the people all along the route of one and half hours long walk in this eastern suburb which is home mainly to the poor, Dalit and minorities. The fearless march of the youth shouting slogans against Gaurakshak criminals and their political masters resonated with the protest in the hearts of the downtrodden people.
DYFI All India President P A Mohamed Riyas and DYFI state leaders led the March. Jitubhai Sarvaiyya and Vasram Sarvaiyya – two of the Dalit youth who were brutally assaulted by Gaurakshaks last year in Una, Gujarat joined the Mumbai protest. Ashok Mochi, the man who dared to abandon the camp of Hindutva stormtroopers in Ahmedabad repulsed by their poisonous agenda, also came to join the Youth March. The Gujarat team who joined the Youth March included Kaleem Siddiqui, member of ‘Insaf’ an Ahmedabad-based organization working for social justice and Saheed Roomy, member of the DYFI Gujarat State Committee. Adv. Irfan Engineer, director of the Centre for Study of Society and Secularism (CSSS), Javed Anand, leader of ‘Indian Muslims for Secular Democracy’, well-known cultural activist Subodh More, Shailendra Kamble, convener of ‘Jati Ant Sangharsh Samiti’ and former State Secretary of DYFI, Dr. Ashok Dhawale, Mahendra Singh and Dr. S K Rege – former leaders of DYFI – also joined the protest march. Upon reaching Ramabai Nagar, the leaders garlanded the Ambedkar statue.
The public meeting at Ramabai Nagar was presided over by Sunil Dhanwa, DYFI State President. Dr. Ashok Dhawale inaugurated the meeting. He narrated the series of murders committed by Hindutva elements emboldened by the BJP coming to power. Within few days of Narendra Modi becoming Prime Minister, Mohsin Sheikh a young IT professional in Pune was beaten to death for no reason but of being a Muslim. The last in the series of murders is that of Pehlu Khan, a dairy farmer in Haryana. The Una incident brought attention to the brutal anti-Dalit character of Hindutva. Both Dr. Dhawale and Mahendra Singh dwelled upon Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh’s pathological hostility towards the Constitution of India because it does not subscribe to the anti-women and anti-Dalit code of Manu. The RSS’s craving to build a Hindu Rashtra according to Manu’s doctrines is at the heart of the conflict between the RSS and those who want to build a modern nation. Today, the RSS is emboldened by state power and its alliance with corporate houses.
DYFI All India President Mohamed Riyas said aggressive Hindutva has assumed dangerous proportions with BJP’s ascendancy to central and various state governments. But their muscle-flexing cannot intimidate progressive youth who have rallied in DYFI. The democratic youth movement has been courageously resisting communal onslaught and will continue to do so with greater determination, he said.
Vasram Sarvaiyya and Jitubhai Sarvaiyya from Una narrated the brutal assault unleashed on them by gaurakshaks and police administration in Gujarat. They thanked the Mumbai youth for the solidarity to their struggle in Gujarat.
Ashok Mochi, speaking on the occasion, explained how poor people were made tools in the riots and his life experience in Gujarat post riots. He said Sangh Parivar wants to scrap the democratic system in the country and that in Sangh Parivar’s imagination, Narendra Modi is a Hindu king.
Irfan Engineer accused the government of helping the rich and the corporates in India. He explained that 1 percent of the population in India holds 58 percent of its wealth. The Hindutva forces’ effort is to divide the people on communal and caste lines so that corporate loot can proceed unhindered. Javed Anand, in his short address, emphasised the need for united struggles of the working class, Dalits and minorities and all sections who are victims of the present regime.
Mumbai Police’s antics
Police authorities first objected to the protest march and public meeting, but DYFI leaders asserted that they will conduct the programme defying Police orders. Then the officers demanded written assurances that ‘anti-national’ or ‘anti-government’ speeches would not be made! The leaders lambasted the Police for parroting RSS propaganda equating anti-government positions as ant-national. In recent years, Mumbai Police has been adopting repressive measures including beating activists in police lock-up, slapping false cases and prohibitory orders against democratic student-youth activities, especially against DYFI and SFI mobilisations in the city. Every time SFI and DYFI cadre has fought tooth and nail to foil disruptive tactics of the Police. The electrifying Mumbai Youth March on April 23 was the latest instance of this.
(The author is the Maharashtra State Secretary of the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI).)